Prep boys soccer: CEC falls to DeLaSalle attack in Class AA semifinal
The Lumberjacks struggled to generate quality chances against the Islanders.
MINNEAPOLIS — Cloquet-Esko-Carlton struggled to generate quality chances, especially in the first half, and was unable to overcome an early deficit in a 4-0 loss to DeLaSalle in the Minnesota Class AA semifinal Tuesday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Lumberjacks defense played well, but DeLaSalle came out on the attack early in the first half. The CEC back line held up well until a disastrous sequence in the middle of the first half. Marcello Villegas Rosales put a ball past Lumberjack goalie Lucas Rauner and then Keokolo Sena scored on a penalty kick 3 minutes later to put CEC in a 2-0 hole at halftime.
The CEC attackers struggled to keep the ball on the DeLaSalle half of the field, limiting the pressure forwards Jordan and Elijah Aultman could put on the Islanders defense.
“They’ve got a couple of really, really talented players,” DeLaSalle coach Eli Baker said. “We did our best to work as a group, shut them down and not let them out of their half and it worked fairly well for us.”
The Lumberjacks generated a couple of good chances in the first half and came out looking for more in the second.
“We thought we had turned the field a little bit like we wanted and we were creating some chances,” CEC coach John Sundquist said. “In that second half, we tried to stay in a 4-5-1 and we created some more chances, but we just weren’t finishing.”
The Lumberjacks tried putting a second man, and then a third man up top to try and generate more opportunities, but when they moved to the 3-4-3 formation, the defense suffered.
CEC actually outshot the Islanders for much of the the second half, but DeLaSalle’s Riley Blaylark put the game out of reach with a goal in the 68th minute and Christopher Parson added another in the final minute of the game.
“We started running into some problems defensively, but we needed the goals,” Sundquist said. “I mean, I don’t care. It was better to give us a chance, 2-0 or 4-0, it doesn’t make a difference to us.”
The Lumberjacks made the DeLaSalle defense “uncomfortable” at times, according to Sundquist, but couldn’t get a shot past Islander goalkeeper Arman Stack.
“When you’re down 2-0 in a state semifinal you’re going to go harder and we just knew we knew we had to give them no space to breathe,” Sena said. “Get into their backs, don’t let them get a clean shot off and there were some scary moments, but we held together.”
After two straight years of winning Section 7AA and advancing in the state tournament, the Lumberjacks have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with, not just in northern Minnesota, but across the state.
“It really all started in 2019,” Rauner said. “That team comes in with confidence and then it just builds and builds. Then you get here and it’s just a culmination of all that work.”
With the win, the Islanders will face top-seeded and undefeated Hill-Murray in the Class AA championship at 2:45 p.m. Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Pioneers survived an overtime thriller to top Richfield 4-3 on penalty kicks in the other semifinal.
The Lumberjacks defeated Richfield 3-0 in the Class AA third-place game on Thursday at the West St. Paul Regional Athletic Center to complete their season with a record of 18-3.